MVD can drive you to drink

August 26, 2018

Kudos to former Mayor David Coss and the other plaintiffs who filed suit when they were wrongly denied driver’s licenses, (“State settles suit on driver’s licenses,” Aug. 22).

As the victorious plaintiffs were preparing to announce the settlement, I sat confidently at the Motor Vehicle Division, a file folder stuffed with documents at my side. I happily leafed through an old issue of People magazine, marveling again at that lovely dress Meghan wore to marry her prince. Little did I know that in the ensuing two hours, my carefully compiled bills, credentials and papers would be deemed insufficient, and my carefree attitude would give way to anger and resentment.

Prior to visiting the MVD, I read up on the requirements. Documents from columns A and B were no problem, as my birth certificate, passport and Social Security card were all handy and in order. Column C, however, is a bit trickier. But I remained optimistic: The cheat sheet on the MVD website assures the reader there are many ways to satisfy the requirement to prove your identity beyond your birth certificate, passport, Social Security card and tax documents.

From insurance bills, utility bills, property tax statements, Education Institution Document (no explanation of what kind), pay stub or mortgage statement, the site offers applicants an easy, handy guide to navigating Column C, the final destination on the road to a new and improved Real ID.

As a new retiree who joyfully cut the cord attached to her mortgage company, no longer receives a pay stub and handed over responsibility for the monthly utilities to her husband years ago, I scoured the C list for items that would satisfy MVD. Insurance bill? Check. Property tax statement? Check. Education Institution Document (would a transcript work? My diploma?)? Check.

Just in case, I also took my bank statement, both checking and savings. But I drew the line at revealing how much was in each account, and I’ll never tell anyone how many times per month I shop at Total Wine. So, I blacked out all that, leaving the account numbers, name, address and financial institution available.

One by one, documents were rejected. Even though it was current, the property tax statement was deemed too old. The insurance bill was not accepted on its own, even though the site said it would be. Once the card was produced to go along with it, I thought I was in the clear, but no go. It was time for the last resort: the bank statements.

“I’ll accept the statements,” the clerk said, “but I need all the detail, including deposits and withdrawals, everything.”

“Why do you need to know how much money I have in the bank?” I asked, a little huffy now.

Here’s some advice for future applicants: Don’t ask why. No one knows why. The clerk didn’t make the law. She just interprets and enforces the law.

In the end, I got my license renewed in two short hours. But not until I had emailed the statements in their entirety to the clerk, who scanned 12 pages of deposits and withdrawals into “the system.” Yes, every trip to Total Wine, amount spent at Trader Joe’s or the co-op. A deposit here and there, and checks written at various fundraisers for local Democratic candidates. A deep dive into my monthly activities and how much they cost, now available to the staff at MVD, and presumably beyond.

I left MVD with my renewed driving credential, but some dignity and privacy were lost along the way. I can only hope that my modest contributions to those Democratic fundraisers help good lawmakers get elected, and the Real ID law continues to be challenged and improved. If not, I’ll be glad to join former Mayor Coss, Somos Un Pueblo Unido and other citizens in the next lawsuit. But first, I may need to make another trip to the wine store.

Janet Wise retired from Santa Fe Community College and now spends time at fitness classes, reading and shopping for deals on wine.

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